Two years ago the Florida Legislature changed the statute governing fines by HOAs, Fla. Stat. 720.305(2). Previously fines could be a lien and foreclosure on a home, but that changed in 2007. Then it changed again, effective July 1, 2010, to provide that they could be a lien and foreclosure again if they exceeded $1,000.00. The 2007 statute required a hearing before a 3-member committee that could not be any relation to any board member, officer, employee or agent. That language still exists, but they added another sentence:
A fine or suspension may not be imposed without at least 14 days’ notice to the person sought to be fined or suspended and an opportunity for a hearing before a committee of at least three members appointed by the board who are not officers, directors, or employees of the association, or the spouse, parent, child, brother, or sister of an officer, director, or employee. If the committee, by majority vote, does not approve a proposed fine or suspension, it may not be imposed. If the association imposes a fine or suspension, the association must provide written notice of such fine or suspension by mail or hand delivery to the parcel owner and, if applicable, to any tenant, licensee, or invitee of the parcel owner.
Before July 1, 2010, the association could not impose a fine and ONLY the committee could impose the fine, which meant a hearing was required. With the last sentence being tacked on (unnoticed by quite a few people), the associations feel they can once again impose fines on their own. What this statement actually means is that if the committee imposes a fine at the hearing, they must notify the owner in writing. It simply adds another step to the process. This confusion has led to a ridiculous number cases involving excessive fines where HOAs are targeting people they don’t like.